The art of handcrafted cocktails is surging in popularity and classic drinks are getting fashionable makeovers. Standard mixes are being replaced with fresh fruits, organic herbs and classic liqueurs. Tampa Bay has a hidden gem in South Tampa that showcases cocktails and fashions of the Prohibition Era. This magnificent place is Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club.
Meet TRACY ANN GUIDA
Tracy Guida is a California girl residing in South Tampa and is a single mother to Rocco and Gianna. After six years of being homesick and missing her city by the bay, she decided to embark on a quest to fall in love with Florida. Her blog, My Other City by the Bay is a tribute to her "new" city by the bay. Tracy's latest blog, The Lemon Drop Ladies, is a celebration of amazing women that have taken life's lemons and made lemonade, or in Tracy's case, lemon drops. She is currently working on a book to coincide with the Lemon Drop Ladies blog.
Nestled in the cozy location of the former Ceviche, Ciro's is cleverly hidden in the ground floor of Bayshore Royal Condominiums on South Howard. There are no signs marking the location, which contributes to its intrigue. A small flight of stairs leads to a wooden door. Ring the doorbell and then a small peephole opens. A man's face appears from the eyes up and asks for the password. Once granted access, it is like stepping into a bar from the 1920's. Jazz fills the air and the staff is dressed to the nines.
The entire place is dark with light only beaming from the jellyfish tank, candles and dim red lighting. I noticed several couples at the bar sharing romantic conversations while sipping glamorous cocktails. As I sat down at the bar, I was warmly greeted and given a cocktail menu that appeared to be printed circa 1920. As I strained my eyes to read the list, the bartender kindly showed me the menu could be illuminated with the press of a button. Gazing at the menu, I was drawn to my first drink of the evening, which was the Tryst. Served in a martini glass that resembles a champagne glass from the 1950's, this gorgeous cocktail consists of Elderflower liqueur, fresh muddled cucumber and Champagne. Prior to pouring, the glass is rinsed in absinthe, which accentuates the flavor of the cucumber. This drink is perfect for a warm day and the combination of herbs and floral, balanced with the Champagne, results in an aesthetically pleasing and refreshing cocktail.
Watching the bartenders is like watching performance artists in a silent film. Sound is not necessary. Their actions tell stories. Using classic methods and tools, each drink is handcrafted to perfection, garnishes are cut to order and the final product is not only a work of art but a delicious labor of love. I had the honor of tasting a few cocktails as well as watching others being made.
Sexy in color, this cocktail consists of Reposado Tequila, Crème de Cassis and Ginger Beer, which when combined is magical and gives the drink a nice kick with a bit of spice. Served in a tall, slender glass with a large ice cube rising up from the rim, this drink is a highlight on the menu. The single, solid ice cube not only gives the drink an impressive look, it serves a purpose. Large pieces of ice dilute slowly, thus preserving the quality and taste of the drink.
Refreshing and exquisite, the Bramble was the second cocktail I tried during my visit to Ciro's. Made with Plymouth Gin, fresh muddled blackberries, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and Crème de Mure, drinking this cocktail feels like an adventure.
Corn-Fed Peach Sour
White whiskeys are the new black and this concoction is unlike any other in Tampa Bay. Made with white whiskey, white peach puree, honey and lemon juice, the Corn-Fed Peach Sour is Ciro's specialty. White whiskey is essentially whiskey that has only undergone the first stage of the distilling process, thus creating a raw-corn flavor. Corn and peaches blend very well together and this drink reminds me of an organic farmer's market. The honey and lemon give it the perfect balance and the drink is topped with blueberry foam.
Russian Spring Punch
This stunning cocktail is vogue and the taste is intoxicating. Vodka, Crème de Cassis, lemon juice and Champagne are combined and served in a tall glass over crushed ice and garnished with fresh berries and a mint sprig. If cocktails were fashion accessories, this one would be a must-have.
I glanced at my watch and realized it was already 1am; I closed my tab and reluctantly headed to the door. My magical night had come to an end and it was back to reality. As the heavy door closed behind me, the sounds of 1920's jazz began to fade and I felt like a child leaving Disneyland. For cocktail aficionados, Ciro's is the happiest place in Tampa Bay.